Over the years, I’ve heard so many stories of betrayed partners who were told that the way for them to create boundaries was to sit down and make a list of boundaries to present to their unfaithful spouse.
Believing that this was the way to create boundaries, she (or he) did what she was told, only to later be faced with what seemed like boundary violations or unfulfilled expectations.
A person on the receiving end of a boundaries list that requires the receiver to act — or stop acting — in a certain way, is not required to comply with the list. And this is one of the reasons why it can temporarily feel more empowering to tell your unfaithful spouse what he will (or won’t) do, than to make a request and risk receiving no for an answer.
You can create boundaries around your own actions — what you will or won’t do — but you can’t create boundaries around another person’s actions.
The only way to create a boundary with another person is with an agreement.
And in most cases, you will need to make a request in order to create an agreement. Telling another person what they will or won’t do doesn’t create a boundary, and it’s simply not a relational way to get your wants and needs met in relationships.
When is the last time you made a request of your unfaithful spouse? Betrayed partners often don’t know what kinds of requests to make, or they hesitate to make the requests they want to make.
Asking for what you want can be equal parts terrifying, clarifying, and empowering. Requests are the quickest and most efficient way to either get what you need and want, or to find out whether or not your spouse is willing to show up and engage in the trust-building and relationship-restoring actions necessary to heal chronic betrayal.
To learn more about the request-making process, read my article, Turning Complaints into Requests here.
If you’d like learn how to make effective requests, along with even more expert information and skills for healing from betrayal trauma, I want to personally invite you to sign up for Moving Beyond Betrayal Partner’s Boundaries Course. The Partner’s Boundaries Course is a companion course to my best-selling book for betrayed partners, Moving Beyond Betrayal, and will teach you everything you need to know about identifying, creating, and maintaining healthy, effective boundaries after betrayal.
A past participant of the Partner’s Boundaries Course said:
Because of what I learned in this Course, I feel much better equipped to make informed requests of my husband.
Get the all the details and sign up online here today!
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2019)
This blog was so helpful for me! After discovering my husband was unfaithful and a sex addict, I tried to restore order to my life and faithfulness to my marriage by controlling him. My “boundaries” were orders, leaving him feeling like a child and me like a parent who had to constantly patrol him. It is actually empowering for me as I’m learning that a real marriage involves choice on both sides; I may choose not to remain with him if his choices don’t show real recovery, but I can’t control him. I can only make requests and make my own decisions from there. This authentic personal power that you’ve taught me so much about feels really liberating! I’ve learned to know and express what I actually want in a way I never could before. Thank you so much for your book, podcast, and blog. It’s been life-changing for me.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Thanks Elizabeth, I’m so glad the info was helpful for you!
How do you make requests that your partner agrees to with no intention of honoring? This is a trap I am experiencing with my partner who will agree to my requests but then just goes behind my back to do whatever he wants. It feels like failure that no matter what I request, no matter how it’s phrased, I can never get a sense of his true intentions in honoring them. It makes me crazy and frustrated.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Hi Stacey, this is a frustrating and difficult situation that is too complex and important to answer on the blog. My recommendation is to use a 5-Step Boundary Solution Clarifier with “He ‘goes behind my back to do whatever he wants’ after making an agreement with me” as the data for Step 1 and work the remaining steps after that. You can get a copy of the Clarifier here.
If you’d like more personalized feedback about your situation, I answer these types of questions regularly for members of my online community. You can find all the details and sign up online here.
Take good care.
Can you recommend any guidelines or samples of impact letters?
If you have additional thoughts on them that would be appreciated as well.
Vicki Tidwell Palmer says
Hi TL, here’s a link to an article I wrote about betrayed partner impact statements: A Guide to Betrayed Partner Impact Statements. I hope it answers your questions.